Sunday, September 18, 2011

Buttercream Icing

I decided to do cupcakes instead of a cake for the kids birthday party this year, and was surprised to discover and easy and fun making icing was. I'm not sure if it's because I've been watching too many cupcake shows on TLC, or the fact that I was trying to save a little money where I could, but I decided to try out making buttercream icing. I decided to do a practice batch about a week before the party, because I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I was hoping to make the icing red, so I bought red food gel to tint the didn't work, but I did figure out how to make a pretty pink shade. For the party I decided to keep it plain white though (the vanilla in it actually makes it kind of off -white shade).

Three things I discovered: making your own icing is cheap, easy, and sooo worth it. Seriously, I could probably just eat spoonfuls of this stuff and go into a sugar coma. This recipe is for vanilla buttercream, but you can easily change it up by using almond or lemon extract in place of the vanilla, or adding cocoa powder for a chocolate buttercream. I used a ziploc bag and pastry tips to pipe the icing on the cupcakes. The two tips I used were the star tip, and the large round tip. You can find them at any craft store for about 25cents a piece. Piping the icing is the fun part....I think I preferred the star tip because it was faster, and didn't show as many flaws. I'm pretty sure this will work well for cakes too, but I haven't tried yet.


-make sure your butter is REALLY soft before you start, let it sit out on the counter for an hour or so until its pretty mushy, don't microwave it

-sift the powdered sugar before using will take out any clumps

-after you finish the icing, stick it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to let it firm will hold up better when you pipe it

-if icing is too runny, just add more powdered sugar....if it's too thick, just add more milk

You will need:

-1 cup (2 sticks) UNSALTED butter, softened

-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

-1/4 tsp salt

-1 tablespoon vanilla extract

-2-3 tablespoons milk or cream (I used whole milk)

*Beat softened butter with a mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute until completely smooth

*Add salt

*One cup at a time, add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating after each addition

*Add vanilla and beat to combine

*Add 1 tablespoon of milk, and continue beating

*Add remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar, one at a time

*Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of milk and beat until desired consistency is reached. It should be nice and thick. Continue to beat another minute or so to get any air bubbles out. At this point I put it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to stiffen up before piping it. To pipe the cupcakes, cut the tip of a large ziploc bag off and insert the pastry tip. Fill ziploc with icing and squeeze until it comes steadily out of the tip. Swirl or pipe, or whatever makes you happy. Then eat one, or two....or three:)

Here's my practice round, I let the helpers lick the beaters after we were finished

this is about what it should look like...this is the point where I actually stole a few spoonfuls

my attempt at a swirl, this is using a large round tip

this is using the star tip...much faster

birthday party cupcakes

and here's an easy recipe for the party punch, I used hawaiian punch to go along with the luau was really yummy

*2 large containers of strawberry lime hawaiian punch

*several lemons and limes, sliced

*1 bottle lemon-lime soda

Mix everything together in punch bowl and add ice

Chicken Piccata

Here's another recipe from the Eat What You Love cookbook. I don't think I've ever had chicken picatta, but I picked it because I already had all of the ingredients on hand...even the capers (Kevin loves these). It actually turned out great and was super easy. The capers are optional, but they give the chicken a great taste. The nutritional serving for 1 chicken breast is 250 calories, 8g carbs, and 32 g proteins...Pair it with a veggie and salad, and it makes a great meal:)

You will need:

-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

-1/4 cup all purpose-flour

-1 tbsp olive oil

-1/4 cup white wine (I used pino grigio, and had a glass myself)

-1/4 cup lemon juice (1 large lemon)

-1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

-1 1/2 tbsp capers (optional)

-1 tbsp butter or margarine

-1/4 tsp chopped parsley

*Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until they are thin, about 1/4 inch thickness

*Dredge chicken breasts in flour

*Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until well browned and barely cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm

*Pour the white wine, lemon juice, and chicken broth into the skillet, whisking the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the capers, if you are using them. Keep whisking the sauce until it's slightly thickened.

*Add the chicken breasts back to the skillet and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken and place on serving dish.

*Swirl the 1 tbsp butter into the remaining sauce. Pour the sauce over chicken and sprinkle with parsley.